Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’ll run political ads even if false. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says he’ll stop running political ads.
Dorsey has the correct approach, but this entire debate about ads skirts the bigger question: Who’s responsible for protecting democracy from big, dangerous lies?
Donald Trump lies like most people breathe, and his lies have grown more vicious and dangerous as he’s been cornered – conjuring up conspiracies, spewing hate, and saying established facts are lies, and lies are truths.
This would be hard enough for a democracy to handle, but Zuckerberg’s Facebook sends Trump’s unfiltered lies to 43 percent of Americans, for whom Facebook is a source of news. And Dorsey’s Twitter sends them to 67 million Twitter users every day.
A major characteristic of the Internet goes by the fancy term “disintermediation.” Put simply, it means sellers are linked directly to customers with no need for middlemen.
Amazon eliminates the need for retailers. Online investing eliminates the need for stock brokers. Travel agents and real estate brokers have become obsolete as consumers get all the information they need at a keystroke.
But democracy cannot be disintermediated. We’re not just buyers and sellers. We’re also citizens who need to know what’s happening around us in order to exercise our right to, and responsibility for, self-government.
If a president and his enablers are peddling vicious and dangerous lies, we need reliable intermediaries that help us see that they’re lies.
Intermediating between the powerful and the people was once the job of publishers and journalists – hence the term “media.”
This role was understood to be so critical to democracy that the Constitution enshrined it in the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.
With that freedom came a public responsibility to be a bulwark against powerful lies.
The media haven’t always lived up to that responsibility. We had yellow journalism in the nineteenth century, and today endure shock radio, the National Enquirer, and Fox News.
But most publishers and journalists have recognized that duty. Think of the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate investigation, and, more recently, the exposure of Trump’s withholding $400 million in security aid to Ukraine until it investigated Trump’s major political rival, Joe Biden.
Zuckerberg and Dorsey insist they are not publishers or journalists. They say Facebook and Twitter are just “platforms” that convey everything and anything – facts, lies, conspiracies, vendettas – with none of the public responsibilities that come with being part of the press.
That is rubbish. They can’t be the major carriers of the news on which most Americans rely while taking no responsibility for its content.
Advertising isn’t the issue. It doesn’t matter whether Trump pays Facebook or Twitter to post dishonest ads about Joe Biden and his son, or Trump and his enablers post the same lies on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or even if Russia and Iran repeat the lies in their own subversive postings on Facebook and Twitter.
The problem is we have an American president who will say anything to preserve his power, and we’ve got two giant entities that spread his lies uncritically, like global-sized bullhorns.
We can’t do anything about Trump for now. But we can and should take action against the power of these two enablers.
If they are unwilling to protect the public against powerful lies, they shouldn’t have so much power to spread them to begin with.
The reason 45 percent of Americans rely on Facebook for news and Trump’s tweets reach 67 million Twitter users is because these platforms are near monopolies – dominating the information marketplace.
No television network, cable, or newspaper comes close. Fox News’s viewership rarely exceeds 3 million. The New York Times has 4.9 million subscribers.
Facebook and Twitter aren’t just participants in the information marketplace. They’re quickly becoming the information marketplace.
Antitrust law was designed to check the power of giant commercial entities. Its purpose wasn’t just to hold down consumer prices but also to protect democracy.
Antitrust should be used against Facebook and Twitter. They should be broken up. So instead of two mammoth megaphones trumpeting Trump’s lies, or those of any similarly truth-challenged successor to Trump, the public will have more diverse sources of information, some of which will expose the lies.
A diverse information marketplace is no guarantee against tyranny, of course. But the system we now have – featuring a president who lies through his teeth and two giant uncritical conveyors of those lies – invites tyranny.
Here are 7 hilarious videos about wearing COVID-19 masks to send people who won’t wear them
While late-night shows are off for a Summer break, Americans are glued to TikTok and Twitter for their humor and every folks have delivered.
The latest trend is to mock fools who refuse to wear masks. While many people who refuse to wear a mask tuck their tails and sulk as they walk away, some take it to a whole new level of fury. Those precious souls are being mocked and shamed all around the world.
Here are seven videos that are hilarious or adorable that encourage wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Wearing a mask is like wearing a lifejacket.https://twitter.com/mattbooshell/status/1280933495674732544
Ted Cruz mocked for tantrum about Gorsuch siding with Native American rights: ‘Way to channel Andrew Jackson’
In a surprise move on Thursday, Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with Native American rights, ruling that Oklahoma must honor a treaty granting tribal sovereignty over much of the eastern portion of the state.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took to Twitter to vent his outrage over the decision.
Neil Gorsuch & the four liberal Justices just gave away half of Oklahoma, literally.
Manhattan is next. https://t.co/Ic9gqqznJp
Trump is cracking as his distraction superpowers falter amid the coronavirus pandemic
Donald Trump is dumb — so dumb he literally suggested on live television that scientists should explore injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure the coronavirus. But due to what appears to be a serious and undiagnosed personality disorder — his niece Mary Trump, who is a clinical psychologist, suggests it's likely narcissism or sociopathy — Trump managed to stumble backwards into a strategy that works well with the 24-hour cable news ecosystem of national politics. Actually, "strategy" may be too strong a word, but it's inarguable that Trump's short attention span, impulsive nature and all-consuming corruption have meant a constant deluge of scandals and outrages, with each one knocking the last one out of the headlines.